New Addiction and Mental Health Disorders Support Certification Program Now Offered at Elgin Community College – Chicago Tribune

Ashley DuBeau’s last memory of her father is trying to save his life.

“I was about to leave for work when I noticed he had fallen out of his chair. I gave him CPR until the paramedics arrived,” DuBeau said.

Alas, after decades of alcoholism and drug addiction, and stints in rehab, at the age of 50, his father succumbed to heart failure.

It was five years ago.

After that fateful morning and considering his own depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, 25-year-old DuBeau is building a career helping others do dealing with mental health and addiction issues.

This fall, she will be one of the first students to participate in a new social services program at Elgin Community College set up specifically for people like her, offering them the opportunity to become Certified Recovery Support Specialists.

“There is still a stigma associated with mental health and seeking treatment for it. I hope what I do will help break that stigma,” DuBeau said.

ECC Professor Joe Rosenfeld, who oversees the new programstated that a recovery support specialist can be seen as a peer mentor to help others develop and maintain their recovery from addiction and mental health disorders – or dual diagnosis.

“Work is not a counselor or a therapist. As this is a relatively new type of position, the parameters are being worked out,” Rosenfeld said.

These specialists will help people develop their own wellness recovery action plans, Rosnenfield said, helping them develop the steps they need to take to get healthy and learn how to defend themselves.

The certification program is one of 11 similar efforts in schools across the state funded by the Illinois Department of Social Services to help address a labor shortage. The IDHS website notes that the state has only 13.8 behavioral health professionals per 10,000 residents.

ECC’s initial grant for fiscal year 2022, which covers the start-up of the program, is $60,208. The following fiscal year, ECC should receive $614,477.

Rosenfeld said positions that need to be filled immediately include support staff for the National Mental Health, Addiction and Suicide Prevention Hotline which is set to launch on July 16. DuBeau is training for such a position.

ECC RSS Certification Program participants must have a high school diploma or GED. It is intended for people with their own lived experience of mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. Those people can participate for free and have gas and child care expenses covered, Rosenfeld said.

Forty-six students are already registered for the fall semester, with ECC putting other interested people on a waiting list for the winter semester, Rosenfeld said. The program consists of taking five courses and then completing two paid internships, each spanning a period of six months. So completing the program will take a student at least 18 months, Rosenfeld said. Then they must pass a test to be certified by the state.

For her part, DuBeau is also completing her training to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor through another ECC program. She heard about the budding RSS program through Rosenfeld.

“He’s a great teacher,” DuBeau said.

Having her own lifelong mental health struggles, DuBeau said she took psychology classes in high school, which inspired her to pursue career paths related to the field.

DuBeau enrolled in college for a while, but said she left due to financial issues. DuBeau also said she worked as a behavioral health technician and at a methadone clinic, as well as at a daycare.

While helping others, DuBeau said she was acutely aware of her own triggers.

“I know what I can handle, but I’m also not afraid to admit what I can’t handle,” DuBeau said.

In this regard, DuBeau said she takes care of herself every day, finding time to do things she loves, like playing video games and listening to music.

“I hope to help people realize that acknowledging having mental health issues is not a sign of weakness. There is no shame in getting treatment. I will be there to work with them, to address their concerns and get them where they need to be to meet their needs,” she said of the role she is training for.

Mike Danahey is a freelance journalist for The Courier-News.

Ryan H. Bowman